Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cheddar and Onion Smashed Burgers

Summer is the season of farmers markets, relaxing in the backyard and grilling.  And what's more classic than grilling burgers? This year, I have resolved to do more grilling and I've been looking for interesting recipes. So imagine my surprise when I got this month's issue of Food & Wine and grill-master Adam Fleischman was extolling the virtues of making burgers on a griddle! It seemed wrong and intriguing at the same time. I decided to see how his burgers would stack up on a beautiful night when the smell of charcoal was wafting all over the neighborhood. 

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: Let me just be honest - these burgers were outstanding! Simple but strong flavors and the patties were moist and messy. In other words, they were perfect.
  • Difficulty: Amazingly easy and quick to prepare.
  • Pros: Everything about the burgers was great and I liked the twist on typical steamed onion sliders. I was worried that smashing the patties with a spatula would just end badly, but it worked out well. 
  • Cons: I wouldn't change or add anything, which is a rare thing!
  • Misc: I used 80/20 ground Angus beef, which was perfect. If the beef is too lean, I don't think the onions will cook properly. I like my meat medium, so I cooked the burgers for about 3 minutes per side. I went with a bun made of egg bread. I forgot to toast them, but they were still good. I also omitted the recipe step of covering your skillet with a roasting pan to help melt the cheese. I forgot to do it and it didn't make a difference overall. I don't like pickles, so I scrapped them and topped my burger with tomato, ketchup and mustard.
  • Repeat Performance: This will definitely be my go-to burger recipe when grilling isn't feasible.
Cheddar and Onion Smashed Burgers
Adam Fleischman for  Food & Wine, June 2011

16 thin bread and butter pickles, patted dry
4 potato buns, buttered and toasted
1 1/4 lbs ground beef chuck
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, sliced paper thin
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced

Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Layer the pickle slices on the bottom buns.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meatballs for 30 seconds. Using a large sturdy spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty.  Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well seared. Press a handful of sliced onions on each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Cook for 2 minutes. Top patties with cheese. Cover with a roasting pan and cook just until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more. Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns. Top and serve.

Grab a napkin or two and dig in!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

I'm not much of a morning person, so anything that gets me on my way more quickly is worth a shot. One of my biggest challenges is actually eating breakfast. I don't like to eat right away when I get up, but my work mornings don't allow for a leisurely AM routine.  On weekdays, I often whip up a smoothie or grab some yogurt, fruit or cheese on the way out the door. When I came across this recipe, I just had to try it.  Muffins are a great portable breakfast, and a good PB&J is always high on my list.
  • Flavor/Texture: I liked the fairly dense texture of the muffins and it really did taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
  • Difficulty: These were a snap to throw together. I had all of the ingredients on hand without any special trips.
  • Pros: Easy to make, tasty and quick. 
  • Cons: Be careful to let the muffins cool completely before removing from the pan or taste-testing. The jelly becomes quite hot during baking and tends to bubble up.
  • Misc: Make sure to mix the cereal with the egg and other ingredients until it starts to break down. A minute or two should do it. I used chunky peanut butter to add some texture. You can use any kind of jam/jelly that you want. I used the last of the strawberry freezer jam I made last summer.
  • Encore Performance: These were a hit with the guys at work and I liked them as well. Definitely a keeper!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
adapted from "Parigi" by Andree Falls

1-2 tbsp butter (for greasing pan)
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup All-Bran cereal
1 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp jam or jelly of your choice

Preheat oven to 375. Generously grease a muffin pan with butter.

Pour the milk and cereal together in a bowl and let rest for a few minutes.

In a stand mixer, mix together the egg, melted butter, brown sugar and peanut butter. When combined, add the milk and cereal and mix.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add all at once to the rest of the ingredients and stir only until combined. Don't overmix or the batter will tighten up.

Fill the muffin tins with 1/4 cup of the batter, spoon 1 tbsp of jam on top, and fill with another 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the top feels firm and is slightly brown and crunchy around the edges.

Enjoy with a glass of cold milk!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake

Since Mother's Day is coming up next week, I thought I'd post this beautiful chiffon cake recipe.  It's very spring-y and the presentation is gorgeous.  I have made it for several special occasions and it's always well-received.  This is one of my favorite cakes to make. 

Chiffon cakes are naturally very moist and light, which is a perfect partner for the strawberries, mascarpone and whipped cream. The cake seems complicated, but it really isn't difficult. If you don't have time, you can use a boxed mix for the cake and just beat the batter on high for a minute or so to incorporate some extra air. If using a boxed mix, go with white or vanilla cake mix and make sure to add the lemon zest as indicated. It really does take the cake to another level.
  • Flavor/Texture: Not too sweet and the whole cake is very light. The vanilla, strawberry and lemon zest work together beautifully.
  • Difficulty: This recipe requires some work and a light hand, but it's not hard.  Make sure that your equipment (bowls, spatulas and beaters) are VERY clean and dry before whipping the egg whites or making the frosting. Do not overwork your batter when folding in the egg whites. Mix it gently until everything is just combined.
  • Pros: It's both delicious and stunning. Great for special occasions and everyday.
  • Cons: Takes a bit of work, but it's well worth it.
  • Misc: This time around, I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder to the recipe to make a chocolate cake instead of white. The recipe works either way, but I just think the chocolate adds a little contrast and looks better. I don't worry too much about trimming the berries while putting the filling together. You can even out the tops of the berries with the filling itself, for the most part. I also add sliced strawberries to the top of the cake for some more visual interest. It is very important to do a crumb layer and then an additional layer of frosting because any flecks of the cake in the white frosting are very visible.
  • Encore Performance: This cake is already a regular in my rotation of favorite desserts. I make it frequently when strawberries are in high season.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake
adapted from a recipe by Amy Wisniewski

For the berries:
2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled (about 4 cups)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest

For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the filling:
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp sugar
3 cups heavy cream

For the berries:
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss the strawberries to coat. Let the berries macerate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before using.

Gently strain berries and reserve syrup for later use.

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine vegetable oil, water, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar. Whip on medium speed, until mixture is airy and light in color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl; add dry ingredients and whip until smooth, about 1 minute more.

In a clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly incorporated; gently fold in remaining egg whites until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake until surface of cakes springs back when pressed and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove cakes from the oven, and let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each, and turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling and the frosting.

For the filling:
Combine mascarpone cheese and heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the frosting:
Place the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer and the whip attachment in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Combine vanilla extract, sugar, and heavy cream in the chilled bowl and whip at medium speed until medium peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least one hour. (The frosting can be prepared up to 12 hours ahead

To assemble:
Using a long serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes as necessary so they are level. Place cake rounds on a clean, dry surface and, using a pastry brush, brush 1/2 of the reserved strawberry syrup on the cut side of the first cake round; repeat on the cut side of the second cake round.

Evenly spread 1/4 of the mascarpone filling over the cut side of the bottom cake layer. Arrange strawberries standing upright, stem end down, over the mascarpone layer and trim as necessary to create an even layer. Cover berries with the remaining filling, being sure to fill in any empty space.

Place second cake layer over mascarpone and strawberries, cut side down, pressing gently to secure it. Using an offset spatula or a long, thin spatula, spread 3/4 cup of the frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Return remaining frosting and cake to the refrigerator until frosting on cake is set, about 15 minutes.

Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake. Let sit in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before serving.

I guarantee your mom will love it!